Phase Four Wins U.S. Air Force Contract for Electric Propulsion of Satellites – About Your Online Magazine

“There is a growing need for more advanced electric propulsion options in space to provide satellites with better maneuverability and operability in space at an affordable cost, and propellant flexibility can provide new options for propulsion in space,” said Dr. Dan Eckhardt, Electric Propulsion Leader, US Air Force Research Laboratory.

The hallmark of Phase Four’s versatile RF propellant technology is its flexible architecture, which can use traditional noble gases and new alternative sources ranging from iodine to water and air. Together with the Air Force, Phase Four will demonstrate important new advantages that the Maxwell iodine-powered engine can provide for large satellite constellations, including:

  • Much lower thruster costs
  • Longer satellite range and orbit life due to the ability to store more fuel on board, as iodine is 4x more dense than traditional xenon propellants
  • Less risk of debris incidents due to the elimination of high pressure storage
  • Greater sustainability due to the ability to responsibly disable and dispose of satellites at their end of life

“Iodine is a promising propellant, due to its densely storable nature, lack of high-pressure components and performance potential, compared to traditional noble gas propellants like xenon,” said the Phase Four CTO, Umair Siddiqui. “More efficient smallsat propulsion systems, such as an iodine RF propellant, will allow for new missions in remote sensing, space surveillance, communications and other areas.”

The Phase Four project has received several letters of support from industry and government agencies that anticipate that iodine-powered propulsion engines will reduce costs and create new opportunities for commercial and defense satellite operators.

Phase Four is also working with other government customers to further develop the Maxwell RF propellant to increase performance on long-term missions, where significant maneuverability is required. The Phase Four RF booster is simpler, smaller, lighter and less expensive than legacy electric propulsion systems, due to technical innovations and the use of low-cost RF electronics developed by the smartphone and wireless charger industries . These improvements will enable government and commercial space operators to deploy mission-critical features in space at a lower cost and faster cadence than is currently possible.

“As the space industry expands rapidly between Earth, the Moon and Mars, we need technologies that reduce cost, shorten delivery times and improve the quality of mass-produced space hardware,” said Phase Four CEO Beau Jarvis. “With our RF Propeller and US Air Force support, Phase Four is working to bring low-cost, mass-produced, high-performance satellite engines to the industry.”

About Phase Four
Phase Four is an innovative provider of simple electric propulsion (EP) solutions for small satellites. The company was founded in 2015 to meet the demands of next generation satellite constellations and to accelerate the advancement of its radio frequency propeller (RFT). Phase Four RFT represents a revolutionary new architecture that offers low cost, mass manufacturing capabilities, miniaturized power electronics and propeller agnosticism over existing technologies, without compromising performance. In 2021, the Phase Four Maxwell turn-key propulsion system achieved flight heritage and is now being used regularly by small satellite operators. Learn more at

SOURCE Phase Four

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